The Nation (Nigeria)
Of Governor Bello’s presidential hallucination
IT sounded like a piece of sublime joke when the story first filtered out that Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was nursing an ambition to become the president of Nigeria. Many people did not take the story seriously because they could not understand the basis on which the governor of the North Central state would undertake a mission requiring not only financial muscle but goodwill and competence, none of which he is endowed with in profuse abundance. The reality, however, is that the presidential ambition of Governor Yahaya Bello is as real as daylight, and he has demonstrated this in more ways than one. Apparently, his fortuitous emergence as governor in 2015 and his controversial reelection victory four years later are pushing him to believe that he can become the Pope even as a Muslim.
And no one should begrudge that, except that it is taking a toll on the poor state s fortunes. In recent months, Lord Lugard House, the seat of government in Lokoja, the state capital, has hosted all manner of guests in furtherance of the governor s avowed mission to become President Muhammadu Buhari s successor in 2023. In March, for instance, scores of Nigerian actors and actresses converged on the Confluence City at the behest of the governor who hosted them with tax payers money amounting to millions of naira. For good measure, the governor seized the occasion to announce his readiness to host this year s edition of Best of Nollywood (BON) Awards scheduled for Saturday, December 11. Understandably, the founder of BON has already boasted that the edition scheduled for Lokoja would be the biggest in the history of the 11-year-old annual event.
Even international soccer stars, whose monthly wages compete favourably with the state s monthly allocation from the federal purse, are numbered among the beneficiaries of the governor s bonanza extravaganza. Last weekend, he hosted scores of senior media practitioners at the exotic Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja as a follow-up to the more than N2 billion he recently sunk into adverts on the front pages of major national newspapers. Now there are words that he will cap his patronage of the media with the hosting of this year s edition of the Nigerian Media Merit Awards (NMMA) in October.
Before I am reminded of the saying that dog does not eat dog, I should make it clear that I have not set out to antagonise my professional constituency. My views are propelled by my concern for the beleaguered state and the realization that
I am as much an indigene of the state as I am a member of the fourth estate of the realm. After about six years in the saddle, there is yet no recognizable project the Bello administration could be said to have executed or even embark on. Workers and pensioners in the state are groaning from the pangs of hunger because they are owed many months of salaries, stipends and allowances. With kidnappers and armed robbers persistently on the rampage, Kogi ranks as one of the most insecure states in the country, next only to the North East and North West states which are ravaged by insurgency and banditry.
In spite of the foregoing state of affairs, the only thing that seems to matter to Governor Bello is the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He would host any kind of gathering just to keep himself in the spotlight ahead of the party s national convention scheduled for God knows when. It leaves one to wonder what business a man who could not make an impact after six years in the saddle as the governor of a state would do as the president of the most populous country in Africa. In an interview posted on the website of ebirareporters.com during the week, Governor Bello s former deputy, Simon Achuba, was quoted him as saying that he could cite 30 projects that were flagged off by the governor but never executed. The lack of will on the part of the governor to execute projects, he said, was the genesis of the crisis that saw them fall apart.
Achuba said: You are given a state to manage, you cannot manage the state but you are talking of managing the entire country. Has Nigeria become a cheap nation or a failed state such that Bello will become its President? If it is, it means that everyone should carry his load and relocate to any nearby West African country because there will be no hope. I wonder why the leadership of the party allowed him to be wasting the people s resources and deceiving himself.
Ordinarily, it would not be anyone s headache even if the governor aspires for a place in the moon if only he would bear the brunt of his ambition alone. But as things stand, it is the people that are bound to suffer dysentery when the governor consumes excess sugar. While no one begrudges his constitutionally guaranteed right to vote and be voted for, his personal aspirations must not be met at the expense of the people s welfare. His right to swing his arms must necessarily end where the people s right to defend their noses begins.
Ordinarily, it would p, not be anyone's headache even if the governor aspires for a lace in the moon if only he would bear the brunt of his ambition alone. But as things stand, it is the people that are bound to suffer dysentery when the governor consumes excess sugar.